This survey of wild, unusual, and terrifying flora munches across eight chapters but may leave some readers asking for seconds.
Audrey II from Little Shop of Horrors and Morticia Addams’ pet Cleopatra inspire new generations of curious youngsters to seek out information on the plant kingdom’s bizarre and peculiar subjects. Hirsch proceeds admirably with her topic, combining the well-known (Venus fly trap, kudzu) with the lesser-known (the stinging tree, which can kill; the pisonia tree, the seeds of which can strangle birds). Along the way, folklore is interwoven with facts, suggesting ideas of how these plants’ legendary abilities may have been promulgated. The chapters are presented in a series of easily digested segments, each introducing a new plant and a new way to terrify readers. Large color photographs are supplemented by a scattering of diagrams illustrating more-complex descriptions. Readers who make it through to the backmatter will encounter an author’s note, a weedy garden of source notes, a glossary, and other useful pieces of information. The source notes are not referenced in the text, making this useful tool one that might be overlooked. The only word for which pronunciation is given is “kudzu,” though arguably some of the earlier terms merit such treatment as well. The eye-catching cover (and immediate shelf appeal) makes up for these few missteps, but librarians and educators should expect follow-up questions from voracious readers.
Perfectly adequate as a starter course. (Nonfiction. 9-12)